NRPA Announces Million Coaches Challenge Grant to Champion Positive Youth Development

By Allison Colman and Teresa Morrissey | Posted on March 15, 2024


Park and recreation agencies provide a wide array of high-quality and engaging youth programming. In these settings, park and recreation staff, youth sports coaches, enrichment instructors and community volunteers play a vital role in creating positive experiences and supporting the holistic development of youth. While many of these leaders are committed to creating positive experiences for young people, they may not have the foundational skills, competencies or confidence to promote positive youth development, support social and emotional well-being, or to create inclusive environments where all can participate. Others may be looking to enhance and build upon their existing knowledge and skills to become even stronger leaders. Well-rounded, thoughtful and forward-looking staff and volunteer training programs can help ensure all leaders working with young people have the skills, knowledge and confidence to support positive youth development.

Grant Opportunity

Through the Million Coaches Challenge, NRPA is partnering with leading national training providers to ensure park and recreation agencies have access to no-cost, high-quality training programs. These training opportunities focus on two key areas — social and emotional learning (SEL) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) — to complement and enhance existing training and ensure all people interacting with youth have essential skills to promote relationship building, leadership and teamwork, cultural humility, conflict resolution, unconscious bias, building understanding, and more.

In 2024, NRPA will award no-cost training to 30 park and recreation agencies. Using an equity-based grantmaking model, some agencies will also be eligible for micro-grants ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 to support training implementation. Training will be provided through leading national training partners, including the Center for Healing and Justice Through Sport, Nike in partnership with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Positive Coaching Alliance and United States Soccer Foundation. More information about each training provider is included below. Awarded agencies will also have the opportunity to participate in a learning community and receive additional technical assistance to establish and implement long-term coach training, recruitment and youth sports equity strategies. The goals of the project include:

  • Ensuring park and recreation agencies have access to high-quality training programs that reduce burden on leadership to curate staff and volunteer trainings
  • Building the knowledge of park and recreation professionals, seasonal staff, coaches and volunteers trained in SEL, DEI, and youth development core competencies
  • Identifying successful, replicable coach training program models in parks and recreation
  • Increasing the recognition of the value of SEL and DEI training across the field of parks and recreation 

Applications are due on May 8, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. PDT. Awards are anticipated to be made on June 1, 2024, with the training completion period running from June 15, 2024 to December 31, 2024.

Who Can You Train and How?

NRPA has worked with the training providers to identify training content that is widely applicable for all youth-serving individuals. This opportunity can support training for full-time professionals, seasonal staff, enrichment program instructors, community volunteers, and coaches and leagues renting field/court space. Many agencies have successfully partnered with these training providers previously, offering trainings as part of in-service days, new-hire orientations, seasonal staff onboarding, self-paced learning, or curating large-scale community trainings for youth sports leagues, coaches and volunteers across the community.

A webinar will be held on April 16 at 2pm EDT to highlight successful models that have been used to facilitate trainings and to provide more information about each of the training providers. Register for the informational webinar here.

Coach Trainings Providers

Download more information about the training options provided through the Million Coaches Challenge here.

Center For Healing and Justice through Sport (CHJS)

CHJS engages with sport at every level. From community centers and juvenile detention facilities to major college athletic conferences and professional leagues, the CHJS team puts a premium on neurobiology research and teaches coaches to deliver healing-centered sport experiences while protecting, nurturing, and embracing athletes for every bit of who they are.

How to Coach Kids – Nike and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee

Inspired by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, How to Coach Kids was co-founded by Nike and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee with input from experts in youth sports and coaching, as well as kids physical, social and emotional development.

Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA)

PCA's mission is to change the culture of youth sports so that every child, regardless of social or economic circumstance, has access to a positive youth sports experience. PCA believes every young person benefits from a positive youth sports experience with a coach who inspires them to become the best version of themselves in the game and in life. PCA provides research-based training and resources for coaches, parents, athletes, leaders and communities to make youth sports more positive, equitable, and accessible to all kids.

U.S. Soccer Foundation

The mission of the U.S. Soccer Foundation is to provide underserved communities access to innovative play spaces and evidence-based soccer programs that instill hope, foster well-being, and help youth achieve their fullest potential. 

The Foundation’s Coach-Mentor Blueprint training is for coaches and staff working across all sports. The training focuses on how to build and sustain positive relationships with youth throughout the duration of a season and/or camp.

Training Provider

Training Topic(s)


Center for Healing and Justice Through Sport (CHJS)

  • Healing-Centered Sport
  • Sports as a Tool for Overcoming Bias
  • Coaching Girls

All Available via Live Virtual Training (Zoom) and In-Person Training

How to Coach Kids – Nike and USOPC

  • How to Coach Kids
  • Coaching Girls

Self-Paced Online Course

Positive Coaching Alliance

  • Developing Competitors Through Positive Coaching
  • Coaching with Empathy
  • Double-Goal Coach®: Coaching for Winning and Life Lessons

Developing Competitors and Coaching with Empathy available via Live Virtual Training (Zoom) and In-Person Training

Coaching with Empathy and Double-Goal Coach® available as Self-Paced Online Course

U.S. Soccer Foundation

  • Coach Mentor Blueprint Training

Live Virtual Training (Zoom) and In-Person Training

Self-Paced Online Course

Applicants will have the opportunity to select their preferred coach training when they complete the application. NRPA will match awarded grantees to coach trainings based on interest and availability.

Please review the application for more details, including the benefits each grantee will receive, FAQs, and a scoring rubric to help you put together a compelling application!

Reach out to youthsports@nrpa.orgwith any additional questions.

Allison Colman (she/her) is NRPA's Senior Director of Programs 

Teresa Morrissey (she/her) is NRPA's Senior Program Manager